Zoroastrians in India: ‘Dating my way out of extinction’ – BBC News

[Music] we are going to eventually cease to exist as a community we are talking about four funerals and a wedding in india an ancient religion is under threat and its believers are doing everything they can to revive it i'm just doing my bit trying my level best to get somebody within the community protect the religion that you've been born with whether it's through dating i have been looking out for a girl since my birth or helping couples to have children meeting the one can be tough okay finding a good party guy it is very difficult but help finding that perfect person is at hand you want a pass he's a russian girl yeah i mean i would love to make my fingers cross yeah i hope it works so the religion is or astronism we we follow prophet zoroaster it is good thoughts good words good deeds xerxes is an ordained sebastian priest along with his son and seven generations of his family so zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest religions to worship one single god we pray in fire temples inside there are sacred flames that must never be put out the prophet founded the fate over 3000 years ago in persia which is now iran we came to india over a million years ago fleeing religious persecution legend has it when the zoroastrians first arrived india's ruler gave us a full glass of milk to show his kingdom was full but our ancestors added sugar to the glass to show we would enrich the land if we were allowed to stay the king granted us asylum but only if we promise not to convert others to our faith india now has the most zobastians and the community there is wealthy and influential they're known as parsees meaning persians and they've kept the promise of no conversions to this day but that's limited how much the faith can grow and now india's party population is plummeting they're fewer than 60 000 believers that's half as many as in the 1940s hi hi kazan i've been speaking to people in the community to find out what's being done to stop those numbers from falling further some hope more sebastian dates and marriages could be the answer and that's where zawin comes in i have matched 85 couples so far considering that ours is a very small community i suppose these figures are okay for the past 10 years zawine has been working for free matching parcels of austrian singles and the hope they will marry and have children i was worried about the declining numbers in parsees so what i did was i made a database of all the youngsters and i started matching them on email in this column i have names then their addresses date of birth then their qualifications their profession height because uh height also should not be mismatched and each one gets a list of maybe 200 names or more once in three or four months i'm very interested to find out how you two met so tell me tell me a little bit it was not romantic at the start it was just his friends and a lot of times we ended up cribbing about how difficult it is to find uh you know a good rc partner and that friendship developed into this hoping for similar success is a new sign up to zarin's list 25 year old kaizad i'm a music composer for movies netflix series games advertisements my aim and my dream has always been hollywood it's always being on the oscar stage i have to get married within the community that is definitely the norm it is something that i would want to do for my own self for my own soul no i haven't found the one for myself yet in india zawastrianism is passed down the father's line and kaizad is an only child so the continuation of his family's party line depends on him hello zarin to help him find love i've arranged for him to meet serene to tell her what sort of a partner he's looking for no i do matrimony yes and you're looking out for a passing girl for yourself yes always open for that so what do you do i'm into music composing for movies wow yeah i feel people involved in art are always sensitive and yes and they'll make good husbands yes i hope so what are you looking for in a girl good question i don't have a very big checklist to be very frank just want someone simple understanding who will be flexible at times and you want a passion guild yeah i mean i would love to bring my fingers crossed yeah i hope it works yeah for me as well i hope so [Music] in the meantime i've organized a picnic for him to meet some other young pasties to talk about the challenges of dating and marriage in their community who knows maybe they'll even hit it off one of them is 20 year old karishma my hobbies are i like to dance i'm interested in bit of makeup so i time for time to time i do a few bit of makeup looks at my home i would prefer to marry someone with my religion because we are raised in a similar setting our values are same we pray to the same god finding a good parsi guy it is very difficult because while the population is declining and to find a good educated and well-to-do financially stable party guy it is very difficult and marrying outside has consequences for women if a party marries a non-party a guy their child cannot be raised as a parsi so it has to be raised according to the religion of the guy i think the parsi community is declining mainly because of the restrictions on parsi women this rule about children of parsi women is controversial and has been challenged in india's courts so far with limited success back at the picnic it's something i want to talk about with the group but first i'm going to send them some lighter questions to break the ice next for okay um so what are the things or qualities that you're looking for in your partner the first is uh open-mindedness that's for sure like he has to be supportive of whatever i want to do it has to be my decision if i want to bear children or not and i don't want to be forced into it so what about the character what kind of character strong personality like he knows what he wants like i i like ambition i like to see that if a person has ambition i like to see that if a person wants something he does it and he's going for four words for it they seem to be getting on okay so i'll send a question to karishma's friend alicia now for her it's not essential her future partners a parsi but they need to be loyal and open-minded why do you think it is hard these days to find a parsi partner today the numbers are already so less and secondly half the pea parsleys are either too old they don't want to get married already married so i think parsleys are very picky and thus the community is getting smaller day by day three in ten parties never marry and it's an aging population but not all of them have given up on finding love at 65 fridos is the oldest bachelor on zorin's matchmaking list i have been looking out for a girl since my birth because everybody we are humans it is not that kennedy we would like to live alone all it is is that it should be compatible our ideas should match there should be understanding i will not be moving out from india my birth is india and i will die in india yeah one or two girls i was very close to them but ultimately they had another thinking because they did not want india so they left for abroad but he isn't giving up hope of finding a wife and having children just yet i am still confident that i will have my baby age is only the number i am still finding out if anybody is there you are welcome you can contact me getting married later in life means the austrians in india don't tend to have big families the birth rate is so low that the indian government has stepped in funding fertility treatment for couples under a scheme called geoparsy or long-lived parsy a five-hour drive from mumbai is the city of surat and gujarat where raymond and charmaine live with their two children and usually for parties they got married young but struggled to conceive peace is they're among the almost 300 babies born through geoparsi over the past eight years but some say the initiative is flawed in part because it's not open to all parsi women jahangir runs a magazine aimed at india's zostrians he's written about the challenges of sustaining the religion women who marry out can't avail of the your parsi funds for fertility treatment assuming they can't have a child a pisces man who marries a non-partisan can avail of that fund so on the one hand you're talking about increasing the population on the other hand you're putting a condition down that restricts the numbers the geoparty initiative says it provides funding for all those who can bear party children under indian law women who have married out don't qualify back at the meet up karishma is also talking about the geoparty scheme do you think there's a lot of pressure on the women in the community yes a lot i know about it you're right and there's geoparsi thing that they have started which is a very good thing it's a good thing but career-centric women have to sacrifice their career just so that they can increase the population doesn't doesn't make sense to me it's not just birth rates that have an impact on the survival of sebastianism in india death rates are also playing a part in the religion's decline there was that movie that came out about four weddings and a funeral and then there was a joke over here that it passes it was a four funerals and a wedding which is really basically true if you've got 841 people dying in a year and you've got about 250 or 200 or so people marrying you really have four funerals and one wedding jahangir thinks easing restrictions on interfaith marriages and conversion will help the religion survive so maybe you'll find uh in the younger crowd a change of mindset it's a subject that's got a mixed response at the picnic i'm open to all religions anyway so i'm not specifically looking for a party but if he's there then that's like a bonus point okay i'm just doing my bit trying my level best to get somebody within the community protect the religion that you've been born with i'm blessed to be a sebastian and i would definitely want to protect it at least do my bit on this planet before i head back and taranesh agrees yeah i would also definitely marry your person in many spasi families the mother is like if i have a boy the boy can marry anyone but a woman has to marry a parsley and they're not alone for some pasties like community trustee and priest xerxes calls to relax marriage rules and widen access to fire temples are too much of a departure from their core beliefs there is something unique about us and we would like to keep that uniqueness if we had married outside then all this uniqueness would have been lost so it's important that our kids understand that and make every effort to ensure that we keep this unique culture and religion going but jahangir isn't so hopeful we are going to eventually cease to exist as a community people say that abroad the religion will survive because there's more liberal it's open it's possible [Music] back at the picnic the day is coming to an end i want to find out how it's gone it was absolutely amazing it's a great experience something completely different and yeah they're pretty um johnny i would say it's nice to add a few more parsees to the french circle list that's something that i'm really happy about it's a great experience never gone through experience such something like this ever and and what did you think of oh he's nice he's a bit talkative he talks a lot he talks a lot yeah he's very friendly he's very friendly yes that's absolutely true the stuff about his music and all it was pretty interesting it was nice i'm really glad that you all had a good time bye to all of you bye ensuring this ancient religion has a future in india will depend on the next generation but is dating the answer my advice to the youngsters would be don't think that arranged matches are not good or relaxing restrictions around conversion and marriage the one thing everyone can agree on is that the priority is to ensure the zostrian faith in india lives on we have a unique legacy which is important to take forward whatever happens a younger generation is smart they'll figure out a way human race is tough and parcels are tougher so we will survive and we will prosper zarin has been hard at work sending her matchmaking emails she's recently heard another happy couple has met through her list that takes her total to 86.

fridos is still on the lookout for a party wife and hasn't given up on his dream of having children karishma is focusing on her studies and dancing for now but if at all an ambitious guy turns up she won't rule out dating and keizad well he's got an update for me so um well the good news is that i have been speaking to someone since the past one month and yes i found her from zarin's list always wanted a party so i'm really really happy about that do you think she's the one yes i definitely think she's the one really yes definitely yeah absolutely so thanks to you you definitely invited my wedding [Music] you.

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